I’m all about independent food places and coffee shops. It’s why I write this blog. But I do occasionally sneak into a fast-food chain. Honest, it’s just to use their WiFi connection when I can’t find a local, open coffeehouse and need to locate something or book a last-minute motel, especially if my smart phone is turned off to save roaming charges in the U.S.
As a result, I get to focus my laser-like observation skills on how these chains operate and the coffee lingo used by regulars: a “double-double” (two cream, two sugar) in Canada’s Tim Hortons and, my favourite, a “tall Ethiopian” in Starbucks. Plus, I invariably order a coffee or snack, seeing as how I might be using their WiFi for half an hour and think it’s highly unethical to carry an empty Starbucks’ or McDonald’s cup from place to place to feign a purchase. Really, I’ve hardly ever done that.
The reason the following places are successful is they, like other popular chains, deliver consistency and predictability, with enough new products thrown in to keep the regulars from getting bored. Mind you, when pulled pork, poutine or paninis hits their menus, you know the trend has long since passed. And the stuff is churned out so fast that “made to order” is not in the vocabulary.